Category Archives: Frustration

Let Go and Get Free

By Dr. Ken Larsen

This is one technic for catching monkeys. Hollow out a large gourd, leaving a small opening at one end.  Inside the gourd put a piece of fruit that monkeys like a lot.  Then anchor the gourd securely and move on out of sight.  Soon, a monkey will come along to check out the gourd.  Finding the tempting piece of fruit inside, he reaches in and tries to pull it out.   But the opening in the gourd is just big enough to get his hand in.  Once he grasps the fruit inside, his hand is just too large to pull back out of the opening.  Not wanting to let go of the fruit, the monkey is trapped with his hand in the gourd.

monkeyAll the monkey has to do to get free would be to let go of the fruit, pull his hand out of the gourd and scamper up a nearby tree.

I wonder how often we grab and hold on to something that we think we want and need in spite of the harm it’s doing to us.

Some of the more destructive things we habitually hold on to are resentments.  Something happened to us in the past that was harmful or hurtful.  Sometimes the memories of these hurtful events haunt us and we play them again.  There are many reasons for “playing the old tapes” and none of them are good.  Each time we revisit those old resentments, the old feelings come back.  We need to let go.  Forgive the offender and make a conscious choice not to linger in those painful past places.  It takes some effort to do this, but life today will be better if we let the past stay past.

All too often the psychic/emotional pain caused by re- feeling these resentments leads us to looking for relief in a behavior or substance.   We feel bad and want to feel good and the cycle of resentment and pain can lead us to some wrong places to find the good feelings we want so badly.  Those “wrong places, can be behaviors or substances that are addictive.  We cycle from feeling bad to trying to feel good only to come back to feeling bad.  We are stuck and don’t know how to let go.

Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between a true addiction and just a bad habit.  The one distinguishing characteristic that answers the question for me is “use despite harm.”  If we’re doing something or using something and it’s doing us harm and we can’t just stop, I think “addiction”.

“Use despite harm” can cover behaviors, substances, even certain relationships.  The key to letting go is to recognize that we are holding on to something that is harmful to us and then getting the help and support we need to let go and get free.

Daily gratitude at the post office

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Going to the post office has been a regular part of my daily routine for many years. I often have books to mail, packages to sign for and my business post box to check on.

For several years I lived in a rural part of Rhode Island where there was never a need to wait in  line. There were never that many customers. Now I’ve moved to a new state and into a city where everything has changed. Now I need a strategy about when to go to the post office. The best time is first thing in the morning, before the doors are even open. Although I still end up waiting in line, the wait is for the doors to be open instead of the long line of costumers in front of me.

Today I arrived at the post office before the doors opened. There was one man waiting in front of me. I was pleased to discover I was going to be the second person attended to. As so often happens, the fellow and I began to chat. It didn’t take long before I mentally named him Mr. Grumble-Grouch.

This is the worst post office in the district. All the people who work for the post office are just lazy. It’s because of the unions. People know they can’t be fired. It’s no wonder the post office is going bankrupt. 

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this is just a sample of all that he had to say.

I was thinking how wonderful it is that I can spend a little bit of time and a little bit of money and am able to send my book halfway around the world. I’m always delighted when I see the postal truck at my neighborhood complex delivering our mail. Yes, there are mistakes made. But I’m actually amazed at the number of mistakes compared to the quantity of accurately delivered mail. I am grateful for  the United States Postal Service delivering my mail through snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night.

postalworker_4326258

Then there is Dave, the wonderful postal employee who works at my neighborhood post office. He is always polite, helpful, cheery, kind and sincere. I admit there are other postal workers at the counter who are not so pleasant or helpful. I don’t think I would call them lazy as Mr. Grumble-Grouch did. But it does seem as though they let people, events and circumstances interfere with their ability to interact kindly with each person they see. I know that the few minutes I experienced with Mr. Grumble-Grouch tested my patience and capacity for civility. And I wasn’t even the target of his angry complaining.

But not Dave. Dave has a secret. In fact the next time I’m in the post office, which might just be tomorrow, I’m going to ask him what his secret is. I know his ability to be pleasant and of service adds to my gratitude at this post office. I bet Dave has something to teach me about Mental Health & Happiness. I’m going to find out.

Stay tuned . . .

 

Emotional Self-Defense

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

bullying

As a thirteen year-old girl, I was threatened, mocked and bullied by an older girl (age fourteen) while her posse watched. As far as I knew I had done nothing to provoke this attack, yet on my walk to school or during play time with my neighborhood friends this tormentor would come from nowhere and start. Finally, one day I had had enough. I stood my ground and silently stood up to her. She brazenly walked up to me, slapped me across the face, and turned to walk away. I grabbed her hair in an attempt to bring her back. Much to my horror I pulled great clumps of her over-dyed and over-teased hair out of her head. Without skipping a beat, she walked to her friends and they all walked away. We never exchanged another glance, blow or word.

I wondered if I had triumphed? I was relieved that the teasing, intimidation and bullying stopped. At the same time I was not proud of having made an enemy and in such a violent manner.

During the years since my youth, I have had similar kinds of experiences. Luckily none have ended with a physical battle. I’m too often clueless about what I have done or do to provoke such anger and hatred. However I am old enough now to know that I am not just an innocent victim. What may be my well intended words could be perceived by the other as a threat or attack. With my added experiences and greater (?) wisdom, at least I know enough to offer an apology for what I may have done that has offended the other. Luckily, most times this helps to sooth hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Perhaps a friendship may not develop, but at least we end with better feelings toward one another.

Sometimes however,  there are a few who continue to attack, no matter what. The wonderful world of online encounters through Twitter, Facebook and other social media create many of these possible interactions.

Thanks to Dr. Peter Breggin I now know what to do. Did you hear him interviewed on our Mental Health & Happiness Summit? He offered a great deal of helpful advice and ideas to contribute to Mental Health & Happiness for us all. (Watch Dr. Peter Breggin’s inverview here:  http://www.mentalhealthandhappiness.com/2014/peter+breggin.html) And he also provided me with an incredibly helpful concept and skill.

We are each entitled to the right for unconditional emotional self defense. We can and should expect, demand and ask to be treated with respect and kindness.

The first time I interact and am attached by a person with whom I have had no prior history I will take a step back, literally if I can, or in my imagination if that is the only possibility. Closing my eyes I visualize surrounding myself with a clean and protective space. Some parents teach their children do this calling it the bubble of safety. Some people imagine stepping into a white light space of safety. It’s helpful to experiment and practice this skill before you get into a situation where you need to use your protective space.

Finally, I say, I have the unconditional right to emotional self-defense. I am entitled to be spoken to with respect. I offer you this same respect. 

For me the results have been amazing. Occasionally I am bullied on Facebook. This practice has helped me to stand up for myself without attempting to externally control the other person or bully back. On Facebook I make this statement slightly differently: If you can speak to me respectfully I welcome your thoughts and comments. Otherwise, please leave me alone. 

I’m actually looking forward to the next time I need to practice this skill face-to-face with a someone. Learning this strategy has greatly improve my Mental Health & Happiness.

How is that working for you?

By  Dr. Ken Larsen

I was first exposed to Dr. Glasser’s thinking in the late 60s.  Someone had given me a cassette tape (remember those?) of him talking.  I can’t remember exactly his topic, but one major “take away” for me was the way he encouraged people to self evaluate.  He pointed out that it was OK to realize that some of what I was doing was not working and that it was OK for me to recognize that and make some changes.

We all face challenges and frustrations.  What Dr. Glasser helped me learn is that I had a choice in how I faced and dealt with those difficulties.

I came to realize that some of the ways I had learned to cope with life were not working.

And I came to see what was meant by “not working.”

We all have basic needs.

  • The need to love, be loved and to belong
  • To enjoy freedom to explore life’s possibilities.
  • To be free to have fun throughout life’s journey.
  • To have a sense that I can do worthwhile things.
  • To survive to live another day.

As I saw the ways that I was able to meet those needs, I could see that what I was doing was “working.”

As I saw the ways that I was not able to meet those needs, I had to recognize that what I was doing was “not working.”

quote3The first temptation was to find someone to criticize, blame and complain about how they were making me angry, frustrated, depressed or whatever unpleasantness I was experiencing as the result of not meeting my needs.

Then I had to learn that blaming and trying to change others wasn’t working to help me get my own needs met.

As I applied the process of self evaluation that Dr. Glasser recommended to achieving those needs, I came to some new insights into myself.  I had to recognize that I had to grapple within myself with old tapes and habits and dogmas that were no longer helping me move forward in life.

I realized that I had to learn some new ways that were more effective, that “worked” for me in helping me get what I wanted in life.

I also came to see that while learning new ways of thinking and acting, I had to let go of some old ways.

Just like playing draw Poker.  You have to discard the cards you don’t want before you draw new ones.

 

 

 

 

Pain, Wisdom and Resiliency

By Barnes Boffey

People who hope that life will be filled with only smooth moments and pleasurable events are actually working against their own happiness. We should be praying not for smooth roads, but for the strength and resiliency to handle those roads in ways that will allow us to be proud, strong and successful. A life well-lived will have its share of tragedy, sadness, failure and struggle. Mental health is a reflection of our ability to face these events with clarity and strength, and to cope with them in reasonable ways within a reasonable amount of time.

challenges

As parents  should be praying that our children do have difficulty in school and with friends, and in groups and in situations where they are trying something new. We obviously don’t want these difficulties to crush them, but without difficulties as children, they can never learn the resiliency needed in later life. People whose roads are too smooth learn to expect that smoothness, and then when life throws it’s inevitable curve ball, they are knocked off balance and unable to understand what has happened or what to do.

Many of us aspire to be wise in our older years, looking at the lessons of life and being able to abstract thoughful lessons about the meaning of life and how to thrive as human beings. Wisdom does not come from success. Wisdom comes mostly from failure and pain. Wisdom is distilled pain, just as maple syrup is distilled sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. It takes many painful experiences to create a drop of wisdom. Looking back over the many painful moments that I have had in the midst of addiction, divorce, family death, illness, depression and failure, I am grateful for the wisdom that has come from that. I am finally ready to be a healthy person myself and to be able to help others in their struggles.

We cannot be much help to others unless we can understand their struggles. The most powerful understandings do not come from books; they come from having personally failed and succeeded in the situations our clients, friend and families are in.

In the words of and unknown Confederate soldier:

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Turn it Off

By Denise Daub

This past week I tried something new… I turned off the TV.

Instead of watching the news with my coffee, I sat on my deck.  I took time to journal, read and think.  At the end of the day if  I found my eyes  to be too tired to read, I listened to my ipod or meditated.

nothingontv

It wasn’t too difficult, I can never find anything to watch anyway. Whenever I turn on the TV I usually end up feeling frustrated because there is nothing on that interests me.  My husband can always find something to watch which just makes me more frustrated because not only is there nothing I want to watch, I don’t want to watch what he wants to watch either!

I finally realized how much time I was wasting in front of the boob tube watching mindless shows that don’t interest me and getting angry at the TV.  So, I turned it off and found all this extra time to do things that I have been wanting to do, but just never seem to have the time.

Now, not only am I being more constructive with my time,  I am not wasting time being angry at the TV.

Needless to say I am happier and my mental health has definitely improved.  🙂

 

Unhappy for no reason

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Are you employed by another? How often do you feel frustrated because you have little or no choice about the decisions you make? Are you a parent? How often do you feel as though your children are trying to be in charge of you instead of the other way around resulting in you pressing harder to prove you are the parent with the power? Are you in an intimate love relationship? Do you have moments as a couple when you want and pull for one important thing while your partner wants and pulls in a different direction?

It can feel hard, exhausting, challenging and confusing when faced with any one of the above. Feeling unhappy, out of sorts and out of balance when dealing with these kinds of problems may be an understandable and even effective strategy. Your heart and brain are driving you to search and find good answers and solutions. Here is one solution you may not have considered.

canstockphoto0374035Shift your point of view and perspective. And do this shifting to a completely unrelated topic from your problem at hand. Shift to something by either going very small and mundane or very large and broad.

When going small, find the smallest joy or briefest moment during the course of the day where you feel grateful, joyful or at peace. It won’t necessarily help solve your problem. Instead it will give your brain a break, a moment of relief and flood of pleasure chemicals adding to your feeling of well being. This just may help open you to more solutions and ideas. Continue this practice frequently instead of simply staying stuck in your “I have to figure this out” behavior.

Or go BIG. At the end of your life do you think you will still be stuck in your present dilemma? Boy, I hope not and I bet you do too. And chances are “this too shall pass.” But in the meantime, spend some time asking yourself bigger questions, like Why are you here? Do you believe there is a God? What evidence do you have to support your belief? Is there life on another planet? Human? Do you believe or imagine you lived a previous life? Even if you don’t believe, who might you have been? Get the idea? Start asking yourself and contemplating the BIG questions about the meaning of life and more. This will give you time to be an explorer, searching in unknown and unknowable territory. The result may just be opening your mind to new, different and maybe even helpful ideas and perspectives when you return to your problem.

Even though it feels as though you are facing the impossible, considering and contemplating life in the micro and macrocosm can help give you much needed stress relief and maybe even good and new solutions.

How are you making yourself feel?

by Dr. Barnes Boffey

Although it seems incredible and almost incomprehensible, the reality is that “we create both the emotions we love and those we hate.” Our emotions do not happen to us, they are the result of an experience coupled with the story we tell ourselves about that experience.

kid

Suppose, for example, you are writing a greeting card, and your child runs by, hits your arm, and you end up scribbling on the card. How would that make you feel? The answer is that it wouldn’t make you feel anything. What would create your emotion is the story you begin to tell yourself about what happened. If you say “How can he be so clumsy,” you would feel frustrated and maybe angry. If you tell yourself “Oh, man, I just spent 10 minutes on this card. Not cool,” you might feel disappointed and frustrated. If you told yourself, “No big deal, he’s a kid and he didn’t mean to do it,” you might feel forgiving and calm. The emotion you “have” is a result of the story you create.

This is both good news and bad news. Good news because we now have a great deal of control over the story we tell ourselves and bad news because we can no longer blame everyone else in our lives for “making us” feel bad (or good). We have to give up the victim role, even knowing the power of being a victim and its many attendant assets. But in the long run, as emotional victims we are at the mercy of the world in which they live, a terrible place from which to try to meet our basic needs.

Helping each other tell different stories about our lives is the purview of a good friend, a parent, a counselor and a spouse/partner. Same story. . . same emotion. But knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Some stories are very, very hard to change, especially once they become part of the fabric of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.

Victimhood is a sad and ineffective perspective from which to our lives. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A Little Acceptance

by Dr. Nancy Buck

Spending time with a  person who is in a miserable mood can be a misery.

You mention what a beautiful day you’re both blessed with and your companion mentions the irritating bugs that are so annoying. You smile for no particular reason and your grumble-grouch side kick complains that your ubiquitous joy is another source or irritation. Are you beginning to suspect that your friend is doing everything possible to have you join in the misery?

Is it possible that you are doing everything possible to have your partner join you in joy?

We human beings are a funny lot. Although no one can make us feel happy or miserable, feelings and emotions certainly seem contagious. Hanging around someone who is full of unhappiness and complaints can lead to our own feelings of irritation and upset. It is also possible that spending time with someone who is full of joy and laughter can influence our improved mood.

But if you are dancing and singing, standing on your head and juggling chickens all in an attempt to “cheer”someone’s mood, this will almost always backfire. If a person is committed to or needing to feel unhappy, miserable or grouchy for awhile, there is nothing that anyone can do to change their mind. They have to make this decision and choice themselves.

The one thing that you can do, however, that is kind, loving and respectful is to simply accept that your companion is feeling, thinking and behaving in a bad, sad or complaining mood. You don’t have to like it. And if you feel their mood is “rubbing off”on you, you can choose to temporarily disconnect. But the last thing you should do is to try and “make”them change their mind and mood.

Accepting the feelings of another, whether the other is your child, your parent, your partner or your friend is respectful, kind and loving. Accept that they are feeling this way for their own very good reasons, whether you understand those reasons or not. You can offer a listening ear and an understanding heart, if they want it. But trying to convince them not to feel the way they are is disrespectful, unkind and unloving.

You can contribute to the Mental Health & Happiness of another if you accept that this person is feeling the way they are. You can also contribute to your own Mental Health & Happiness by accepting your own feelings.

Paradigm Shift

By  Mike Rice

Admit it.  We’ve all done it a few times in our lives.  It happens on airplanes, in grocery stores, parks, church, or any other public places.  We experience things outside ourselves that leads to feeling frustrated or angry because “some people’s children,” or someone, or some thing is behaving in ways in which we disapprove.  We begin to think such things as, “These kids need to be taught how to act in public,” or “Boy, Some people’s children . . .,” or “A good swat on their tails would put an end to this kind of behavior.”

When our happiness needs are being disrupted, it’s easy to react in negative ways to attempt to ease the frustration.  You may choose to criticize, blame, complain, nag, threaten or even punish those whom you perceive as the disrupters of your happiness.  Ironically, the thoughts and behaviors that are chosen often cause more unhappiness than they do to resolve it.

EXAMPLE

You are riding a bus and you don’t like riding busses.  You are only doing so because your car broke down and is in the shop being repaired.  So already, you are not all that happy because in your happy world, your car is running well and has no mechanical problems.  You are also unhappy because the bus has to make several stops to let passengers on and off which makes the bus trip seem to be even more unpleasant.

On one of the stops, a man and his two young sons board the bus.  You are reading a newspaper to take your mind off of your unhappiness and to focus on other things.  But even the newspaper articles are stories of things that conflict with your happiness ideals.  Perceiving yourself as in control of your emotions, you do your best to stuff your negative emotions so that others won’t notice them.

busrideThe two boys who recently boarded the bus are now running up and down the aisle of the bus, playing tag and letting out several high-pitched sounds that are unpleasant to you and disrupting your concentration and ability to read your paper.  You begin to think to yourself how unruly these kids are and how poorly they have been raised to behave this way in public.  You glance over to the father who appears to not even be in touch with his surroundings.  He is not only ignoring his children and their behavior, he is just staring out the window at nothing in particular.  And now your values kick into another gear of confirming just how poor a parent this man is and why these kids are behaving so poorly.  Now there are several people around you who are behaving in ways in which you disapprove.  You begin to feel a knot in your stomach.  You clench you teeth.  Your blood pressure rises.  You feel achy.  Your anger intensifies.

Now you don’t care if anyone notices your looks of displeasure or not.  In fact, you hope the father of the two boys will notice your expressions of unhappiness and take measures to get these kids to behave the way you want them to behave.  But the father is too self-absorbed to notice your unhappiness much less the behavior of his sons.  He simply stares out the window as if in a daze.  Meanwhile, the two boys continue to play and yell while chasing each other up and down the aisle of the bus.

You see the father and the boys as the cause of your unhappiness even though you were unhappy before they even boarded the bus.  But since there is nothing you can do about having to ride the bus, you begin to think that you can say or do something to the boys and/or the father to get them to behave the way you want them to behave.  You have held off as long as you can with only the information you see before you that you have recognized as being of the cause of your personal happiness.

Enough is enough!  You yell at the boys, “Sit down and be still!  Quit running up and down this aisle and disrupting everyone!”  And to the father, “Can’t you control these kids?  Some people should never have children because they don’t know how to raise them!”

The father looks stunned.  It appears you just shook him out of a coma.  He replies, “I apologize.  I’m sorry for how my kids are behaving.  Boys?  Come here.  Sit down and be quiet.”  And to you he once again apologizes:  “We’re all a little bit lost in our thoughts right now.  We just got on the bus back there at the hospital.  My wife . . . their mother, just died of cancer a few minutes ago and we are not dealing with it too well right now.”

So what are your thoughts now?  Do you still want to choose to criticize?  Do you still want to complain and blame them for your unhappiness?

This story is an example of how one chooses to think and behave on limited information and self-centered thoughts.  One cannot behave without a thought that leads to an emotion that leads to the choice of the behavior.  Once you change your thoughts, you will change your emotions and your behavior.

At the beginning of this story, you were controlling your behavior as best you could at the time.  But that didn’t work so well so you began to behave based on your thoughts and lashed out at the source you perceived as the cause of your unhappiness.  Once you got more information of what was happening in their world and not in yours, you suddenly changed your thoughts and behavior and may even felt like a jerk.  So now who is apologizing?

It’s not always about you.  Other people have their own unhappiness to deal with.  Just remember:  When you find yourself unhappy because of the behavior of others, you can only control yourself.  And there will always be someone else who has more to be unhappy about than you.

The Next Time You Are Unhappy

Change what you want and/or change how you behave when you don’t get what you want.  There are no other effective ways.